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Lesson from a Brooklyn Teacher: Mammography Is a Lifesaver

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time for women to get screened for the disease so it can be discovered and treated as early as possible.

Keri Gioia began having an annual mammogram 11 years ago when she turned 40. The kindergarten teacher was single with no children, had no family history of breast cancer, and no symptoms.

But in 2012, a suspicious area on her mammogram was later confirmed to be breast cancer. The tumor was at an early stage, and so Gioia decided to have a lumpectomy and follow-up radiation treatment.

After a short period of recovery, she returned to her usual routine: teaching in a public school in Brooklyn and leading an active social life on Staten Island, where she lives. She remained vigilant about her annual mammogram, but maintained a positive attitude.

Then, in late 2017, during her annual screening before a visit with Janet Yeh, MD, breast surgeon at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, Gioia told the mammography technician about a lump she recently felt in her other breast. Her mammograms and subsequent biopsy of the suspicious area confirmed a malignancy. It again was at an early stage. She underwent a mastectomy with two-stage breast reconstruction, performed in Brooklyn by plastic surgeon Alyssa Golas, MD.

“Dr. Yeh and Dr. Golas are an incredible team and I am very pleased with the result,” says Gioia. “The care I received from them was simply the best and it’s convenient that they work together and can see patients at one site. They are terrific doctors.”

The American Cancer Society currently recommends annual screening mammograms for women without any symptoms or family history of breast cancer to begin at age 45. False-positives and overdiagnosis are two main reasons for waiting until later.

“Some cancers grow slowly but some can be aggressive and reach an advanced stage more quickly. In Gioia’s case, her tumors were found and treated early, when the chance for a good outcome or a cure is much greater,” says Dr. Yeh. “Self-examination and an annual mammogram can save many lives.”

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